Where will Nigel Farage stand in 2015?

After confirming that he will stand for a seat, the UKIP leader is likely to have his eye on Boston and Skegness.

In one of his many TV appearances over the weekend, Nigel Farage confirmed that he would stand for a seat at the next general election, so where might the UKIP leader try his luck? In 2010, he stood against John Bercow in Buckingham, but is unlikely to do so again after only finishing third (despite the three main parties standing aside to give the Speaker a free run) last time round.

UKIP didn't manage second place in any constituency, but there were three south west seats where it finished third: North Cornwall (where it won 5 per cent of the vote), North Devon (7 per cent) and Torridge and West Devon (5.5 per cent). But rather than any of these, my guess is that Farage will look to Lincolnshire, where UKIP is now the official opposition after winning 16 county council seats in the and depriving the Tories of overall control. The party performed notably well in Boston, where it won 10 of the 11 divisions after capitalising on local concern over immigration (the town has been nicknamed "Little Poland" due to its high eastern European population, the largest outside of London). 

As a result, one of the seats Farage is likely to be eyeing for 2015 is Boston and Skegness, where the party finished fourth in 2010 with 9.5 per cent of the vote (its second best result after Buckingham). There were three other Conservative-held constituencies where UKIP received more votes than the Tories on Thursday: Thanet North, Thanet South and Great Yarmouth. Any one of these is a potential target for Farage (the most marginal is Great Yarmouth, where the Tory majority is 4,276).

A study by Electoral Calculus suggested that UKIP would fail to win a seat at Westminster unless it won at least 24 per cent of the vote, but it's worth remembering that the Greens accomplished that feat with just 0.9 per cent of the vote in 2010; don't assume a uniform swing. If UKIP concentrates its resources and builds a local following in targeted constituences, it's quite possible that the Commons benches will acquire a purple tinge after 2015. 

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage addresses the media in central London on May 3, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.